A wildly disappointing 2016-17 campaign in Colorado has led to rampant speculation that Avalanche GM Joe Sakic is ready to tear down a roster he has had a big hand in both assembling and keeping together. Should he decide to pull the trigger, Sakic’s most valuable and marketable asset is 26-year-old center Matt Duchene. In seven full NHL seasons, Duchene has tallied 20 or more goals five times and with 16 through 54 contests so far this season, it appears likely he’s well on his way 20 goals yet again. Top-six pivots still squarely in their prime and with multiple years of contractual control remaining are all but impossible to acquire which presents Sakic with a unique opportunity to jump start the reconstruction of the Avalanche franchise if he can squeeze fair value from an interested suitor.
Part of what makes Duchene a valuable commodity, besides his high skill level and past performance of course, is the two seasons remaining on his contract which call for a cap charge of $6MM per season. Compared to what comparable free agent talent costs on the open market, Duchene is a relative bargain at his price.
While it’s been a tough season all around in Denver, on an individual level Duchene is in the midst of another solid season offensively with 16 goals and 36 points in 54 games. Prorated over a full 82-game schedule, he would be on pace for a 24-goal, 55-point campaign. Given the lack of offensive production around him in Colorado (the Avalanche are currently last in the NHL in scoring, averaging fewer than two goals per game) it’s easy to project better numbers elsewhere surrounded by better talent.
54 GP, 16 goals, 20 assists, 36 points, -20 plus/minus, 6 PIM, 124 SOG
While any team in the league would love to add a player of Duchene’s caliber, a few stand out due to possessing the assets Colorado would want in return in addition to the need for a high end, top-six forward. Carolina boasts several talented young blue liners they could use to entice Colorado while Duchene would give the Hurricanes a skilled pivot to slot ahead of Jordan Staal, who is best suited for third line duty.
Ottawa, as mentioned earlier, absolutely could use another top-six forward and have the young assets required to make a deal work but at this point don’t appear interested at the current price tag.
Nashville has also been listed as a potential destination with either Mattias Ekholm or Ryan Ellis headlining a return package, but after dealing Seth Jones last year would the Predators wish to deplete their defense corps further to bolster their offensive attack?
Likelihood of a Trade
Blockbuster deals of this nature are difficult to execute in-season. With nearly every postseason contender at or near the salary cap ceiling, acquiring a player with a $6MM cap charge would generally either require a team to send an expensive contract back in return or to retain salary to facilitate a trade. That’s why a majority of major moves are completed in the offseason when salary cap concerns are lessened with clubs allowed to exceed the cap ceiling by 10%. More teams will realistically be able to join the bidding which should serve to increase the return Colorado can expect. It’s likely Colorado will pull of a blockbuster deal with Duchene a strong possibility to be moved, but the best guess is a deal will wait until summer.